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Interview:
The Temptations at Freedom Hill, 5 Things To Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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In any discussion of Motown, the Temptations are among the first acts mentioned -- with good reason.

The quintet, formed as the Elgins in 1960 and later known as the Primes, is one of Motown’s most successful groups, with 25 Top 20 singles and the distinction of being the first Motown act to win a Grammy Award. The Tempts are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.

And the Tempts are still going, under the auspices of co-founder Otis Williams and with some formidable projects in motion for the near future.

• The Temptations’ big project at the moment is “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg: The Temptations,” a musical directed by Tony Award winner Des McAnuff and opening Sept. 15 at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in California, with plans to move to Broadway later on. “I just had the pleasure of being there to see (rehearsals) and I was moved to tears,” Williams (nee Miles), 75, says by phone from his home in California. “I can’t put it into words; It’s gonna be good. I’d like to think (audiences) will take away a greater perspective and to some extent a respect of what we have gone through and why we’re still around doing it and people want to see it.”

• Williams -- who wrote the best-selling “Temptations,” a 1988 autobiography that was adapted into an NBC miniseries 10 years later -- is also hoping the Temptations will be doing some recording soon, hopefully releasing the group’s first new studio albums in nine years. “We’re getting ready to go back in (to the studio),” he says. “We’re going to sit down with our producers soon and figure it out. We’ll be doing some original tunes and we’ll be doing some cover tunes; That much I know. We used to record an album twice a year, so to put something out after nine years will be a special moment in Tempts history.”

• Like Duke Fakir in the Four Tops, Williams is the lone Temptations founding member still alive and actively performing, and he doesn’t take that distinction lightly. “We’re just blessed to continue on,” Williams says. “The Four Tops are fine, and the Tempts and myself, and (Henry) Fambrough of the Spinners, because he’s the last original member from that group...I’m just glad that we are able to continue this music and this group that people have come to know and love.”

• Among the Temptations’ many career anniversaries, this year marks the 45th for “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone,” a chart-topping hit that won three Grammy Awards. The song was first released earlier in the year by the Undisputed Truth, and the Temptations “didn’t want to do it at first,” according to Williams. “We were tired of the psychedelic stuff. We had the ‘Ball Of Confusion,’ the ‘Could Nine,’ the ‘Runaway Child,’ ‘I Can’t Get Next To You.’ We wanted to go back to the ‘Just My Imagination’ and ‘My Girl’ sort of feel. So we almost passed on ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone,’ but (producer) Norman Whitfield said, ‘It’ll be a hit,’ so we stopped bickering and went into the studio and recorded it, and it came out and it was the No. 1 record and everything and turned out to be one of our big hits.”

• As the 50th anniversary observation of the Detroit riots begins Sunday, July 23, Williams recalls his experience as primarily trying to stay out of the fray. “I was getting ready to go to the Chit Chat Lounge to see the Funk Brothers play and I heard about what’s going on and said, ‘I’d best go home,’” Williams remembers. “I got home and sat down and looked at the news and all hell had broken loose. I said, ‘Wow, if that isn’t’ a hell of a thing...’ It was scary. But one of the things I remember is that as bad as the riot was and marshal law and all that, when they finally let the city start moving about I said, ‘Lemme go see what happened to Motown, and it was untouched, not one brick scratched or anything. I thought that was something special.”



If You Go

• The Legends of Motown show, featuring the Four Tops, the Temptations, the Spinners and the Stylistics, is at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 23 in the Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill, 14900 Metropolitan Pkwy., Sterling Heights. Tickets are $59.50-$125.50 pavilion, $25.50 lawn. Call 586-268-9700 or visit palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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